Terrain Vague: Interstices at the Edge of the Pale

January 24, 2010

UPDATE: Terrain Vague: Interstices at the Edge of the Pale was published in 2013 by Routledge Press:






Call for Papers: Terrain Vague: Interstices at the Edge of the Pale

This collection of essays will focus on terrain vague—marginal, semi-abandoned space in or along the edge of the city—as abstract concept, specific locale, and subject of literary, architectural, or otherwise artistic intervention.

Ignasi de Solà-Morales defines terrain vague as land in a “potentially exploitable state but already possessing some definition to which we are external,” or “strange places” that “exist outside the city’s effective circuits and productive structures” (119, 120). Gil Doron similarly defines “landscapes of transgression” as derelict sites where “nature has started to reconstruct the built or (now) ‘ruined’ environment. . . . space[s] that opened in the dichotomy of what we perceive as city and nature” (255).

We are particularly interested in responses to the idea, as expressed by Luc Lévesque, that “‘terrain vague’ offers a counterpoint to the way order and consumption hold sway over the city. Offering room for spontaneous, creative appropriation and informal uses that would otherwise have trouble finding a place in public spaces subjected increasingly to the demands of commerce, the ‘terrain vague’ is the ideal place for a certain resistance to emerge, a place potentially open to alternative ways of experiencing the city.”

We invite submissions from a range of fields, in particular literature, architecture, ecocriticism, urban studies, cultural geography, the visual arts, and film studies. Suggested topics may include:

Site and situation
Forms of documentation
Contextual definitions/theorizations
Urban wilds
Transgression and recreation
Urban natural history
Environmental justice

Please send abstracts of 300 to 500 words, accompanied by a brief bio, to site.situation@gmail.com. Inquiries are welcome.

The deadline for abstracts is 1 June 2010.
Completed essays will be due on 1 February 2011.

Manuela Mariani, The Boston Architectural College
Patrick Barron, University of Massachusetts, Boston

“That zero panorama seemed to contain ruins in reverse, that is—all the new construction that would be built. This is the opposite of the “unromantic ruin” because buildings don’t fall into ruin after they are built but rather rise into ruin before they are built.” Robert Smithson, “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey”

Doron, Gil. “The Dead Zone and the Architecture of Transgression.” City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action 4.2 (2000): 247-63.
Lévesque, Luc. “The ‘Terrain Vague’ as Material—Some Observations.” http://www.amarrages.com/textes_terrain.html
Solà-Morales, Ignasi. “Terrain Vague.” Anyplace. Ed. Cynthia Davidson. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995. 118-23.
Smithson, Robert. “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey.” Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings. Berkeley: U of California P, 1996.